International Women’s Day rolls around every year, and although it serves to highlight the inequalities that women continue to face, I believe there needs to be more day to day consciousness to inspire real progress. The call for accelerating gender parity should ring loudly regardless of what day it is.
Countless people have written on how achieving gender equality is more complex than it might first appear. The private and public sectors have been focused on celebrating women in senior level positions and promoting role models, while also looking at issues such as equal pay.
Undoubtedly these are all positive initiatives and I don’t want to take away from that, but we should not forget that women are also impacted by far more subtle and pervasive forms of inequality.
In businesses, for instance, the emotional labour that women are – arguably subconsciously – expected to carry in the workplace often greatly exceeds that of their male counterparts.
Women are still looked to as the primary nurturing figures, and with that comes the expectation that female team members are readier shoulders to cry on, and more “suited” to addressing personal and emotional concerns of employees.
We can also find ourselves responsible for arranging the personal personnel activities in the office, such as birthday and leaving presents. Why is this? Is it lazy sexism in action; “well, you’ll just be able to pick a better present than I could”?.
It is awareness and questioning of these subtle behavioural nuances that I believe needs greater championing. Time and time again studies have proven that when the gender equality gap is narrower, everyone benefits.
Whilst great steps have been made, and will continue to be made around broader issues, addressing the minutiae of the everyday should have a firm seat at the table.
Why I am being asked or expected to do this, and not a male colleague? Would I have had that reaction if I were male? These are magical, perception-altering questions, and we should be asking them.